The Golden State Warriors, a team which has prided itself on its defensive intensity and focus, are showing cracks in its foundation that are making them more vulnerable than ever before.
Photo Courtesy: Sky Sports
According to NBA.com’s advanced analytics, the Warriors rank just 11th in defensive efficiency so far this postseason. The Oklahoma City Thunder (#9) and Orlando Magic (#10), teams which were bounced 4-1 in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs, even rank ahead of the Dubs on defense. And yet, these fixes for the Warriors are manageable, all it comes down to is energy, effort and focus.
Let’s look at some clips from game 5 which highlight why the Warriors defense has tapered off this postseason and has many uneasy about their path toward a three-peat.
Draymond Green: Poor Foot Placement Allows Middle Drive
The Warriors struggled in the first half on defense due to what Steve Kerr attributed to a lack of urgency, concentration and following of the scouting report. In this clip, Draymond Green gets switched onto Lou Williams. Draymond Green’s foot position is the issue here as he simply gives Williams a direct line drive to the basket. I cannot imagine giving a straight line drive was on the scouting report. The inability to contain the dribble drives forces Shaun Livingston to step up and help, which forces #5 Kevon Looney to leave Clippers forward JaMychal Green wide open for a 3-point shot.
Durant takes after Draymond — Gives up Middle Drive
Draymond Green was not the only culprit of allowing middle drives, his teammate Kevin Durant fell into the same trap. The problem for Durant here, which was the case most of the night, was that he stood straight up, not in an athletic stance, which had him a step behind from the get-go. Allowing #23 Williams again to get middle forces the low-man, #30 Stephen Curry to have to step-up, #34 Shaun Livingston to have to rotate out and cover two men at once. Therefore, #20 Landry Shamet hits his teammate Patrick Beverly for an open 3-point look. The good thing here is that Curry recovers out well to offer a contest on Beverly’s shot for it to miss.
Durant is Caught NOT in athletic stance OR ready to guard:
Here’s another instance of Kevin Durant being caught in the act of not being in a stance. On this possession, as #30 Stephen Curry and #9 Andre Iguodala engage in ball-screen defense, you can see Durant, who is just one pass away, literally standing straight up-and-down. This allows Lou Williams to hit Danilo Gallinari for an open look from distance. Even though the shot was missed, this lack of focus came back to bite the Warriors all night long.
Splash Bros Play Hopscotch & Beverly Takes Advantage:
This is a mix-up toward the end of the half between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. For whatever reason, Curry and Thompson cannot decide who wants to take #21 Patrick Beverly and instead play a game of hopscotch. What’s even worse is that Curry flys by the shooter doesn’t box out and allows Beverly to get his own rebound and kick the ball out to an open teammate for yet another open look. This sequence epitomized the defensive performance on the night for the Warriors in a major way.
Assuming puts Draymond in No-Man’s Land
Draymond is back again too in this clip as he gets completely turned around on where his defensive assignment gets up. Lou Williams comes off a dribble hand-off toward the top of the key where #4 JaMychal Green slips out of a ball-screen to the opposite side of the floor. Meanwhile, #17 Garrett Temple comes to set a second ball-screen for Williams. This where Warriors’ forward Draymond Green makes this critical mistake. He assumes that because JaMychal Green is slipping he’s rolling to the basket, but instead, he pops to the opposite wing. As Williams comes off the screen from Temple, Draymond is looking for JaMychal in the lane and he’s nowhere to be found. In a 3-point game, the Clippers get yet another open look to extend their advantage to six late in the third quarter.
Warriors violate the Cardinal Rule: The Ball Scores
Lastly, this play is a tough one to watch from an elite defender like Klay Thomspon. I’m sure he would even admit that he gaffed this play based upon a basic rule: the ball scores. As the Warriors hard-hedge a ball-screen with #12 Andrew Bogut it leaves Montrezl Harrell wide open in the middle of the lane. Thomspon, who’s on the weakside guarding #20 Landry Shamet, makes the mistake of simply stunting at Harrell instead of making him kick it to a teammate of his.
Klay’s teammate, Kevin Durant, again though is also copable because he’s seen unready to rotate to help take Shamet when Klay takes Harrell. It is evident that on this particular play, Thompson stunted because he must not have trusted Durant to take the rotation to Shamet, which he was correct about in this case.
If Golden State has plans to win back-to-back-to-back championships, subtleties and details like these on defense must get corrected. Thankfully, all it requires is more energy, focus and concentration for the Warriors to once again reclaim their place as the most formidable force in the NBA once again.